Subject: Ancient and Modern History
Where are you from?: Blackpool, Lancashire
When I first visited Merton, there was a strange feeling in the air that, at first, baffled me. It took a wander around the beautiful gardens, an awe-filled gasp in the chapel and chatting with all the purple-shirted, friendly-faced students to put my finger on it: Merton feels like home.
Best thing about your course?
The best part of A&MH is getting to watch an idea form in Republican Rome and continuously crop up, reinvented, reinterpreted and repurposed, all the way to the modern day. For all our differences, we have a lot in common with people two-and-a-half millennia ago and I love hearing all the stories between.
Most important thing you’ve learnt?
The value of listening. When I started, I was afraid that everyone was much more knowledgeable than I was. In truth, it’s just that everyone has new areas of knowledge separate from your own. I came to realise that getting to listen to passionate, knowledgable people—whether they’re tutors or friends!—is the best thing in the world.
What were you worried about before you arrived?
I’d heard rumours that historians had virtually no contact time other than a weekly tutorial. Whilst it’s true we don’t have much contact, it’s a lot less intimidating than it sounds. I rapidly developed a sense of initiative and self-reliance, and now genuinely love the freedom to explore independently.
What new opportunities have you had?
Every opportunity at Oxford has felt like a new opportunity! Black-tie dinners, poetry workshops, access to some of the most incredible libraries in the world… every day at Merton brings something new and unexpected. It’s a joyous place to live.
What’s the work like?
I find it exhilarating. For A&MH, the work mostly consists of working through a reading list to produce an essay on a given topic. Due to the size of each reading list, it’s possible to really tailor your investigations to subjects that fascinate you, before discussion with a world expert in a tutorial. I love it.
What do you do when you’re not working?
As of this term, I’ve taken over as the President of Merton’s Poetry Society, so I spend some of my free time organising our Poem of the Week email or our termly student poetry pamphlet, as well as a range of great free events! I also relish the chance to cook with my friends; long hours in the library can be quite isolated so getting together to make something delicious is always fun.
Favourite spot to relax?
The cosiest place on earth is one of the huge armchairs in the Economics Room at Merton’s OWL library at about 10 o’clock at night. Curled up with a good book as Merton Street is dark but for the gold of the street lamps… paradise!